DROIDS & DRONES: Medical Supply Test; Euro Drone Swarms; More Pumas for DHS

October 24, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

Testing Medical Supply Drones.

The U.S. Marine Corps, in conjunction with California drone maker Zipline, has been testing unmanned aircraft as combat zone delivery systems for medical supplies.

Zipline partnered with the Defense Department and Naval Medical Research Center to deploy its drones during four multinational military exercises in Australia this past summer (July 30 to September 5). Zipline made more than 400 deliveries, including mock blood resupplies to shock trauma platoons, MSNBC reported.

The Defense Department’s innovation unit came to the drone company because of its success transporting medical supplies by drone in the African countries of Rwanda and Ghana.

Zipline drone parachute

A Zipline drone-delivered package carrying three units of blood drifts to the ground. (Photo: courtesy Zipline).

The autonomous, fixed wing, catapult-launched drones made hundreds of deliveries of blood and other medical supplies in small parachute bundles dropped at their destinations. All told, they flew 461 day and night sorties and made 381 drops. It was the first time a U.S. Marine Air-Ground Task Force had incorporated autonomous drone delivery into their high availability, disaster recovery planning, according to the Defense One website.

It was not the first time the Marines have used drones for cargo delivery. Two unmanned K-MAX helicopters flew nearly 1,000 cargo missions in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2015. The Marines are still using the K-MAXes, which are currently being fitted with more autonomous capabilities. However, the Zipline drones offer a new realm of delivery options compared to a 3-ton K-MAX helicopter. The relatively small, fixed-wing Zipline drones, with a wingspan of around seven feet and a payload of just 4.5 pounds, can’t fly as fast or carry as much as the K-Max. But they are easier to load and operate, allowing them to make a lot more drops than the K-MAX, according to Defense One.

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Navy’s China Lake is expanding for future weapons, drones.

Despite two major earthquakes that struck California’s China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in early July, the Navy is moving ahead with expansion plans at the massive facility to accommodate new and future weaponry, including unmanned aerial vehicles,

The Navy has acquired more than 33,00 acres of public lands abutting China Lake’s  South Range, which houses the Weapons Division’s electronic warfare range complex.  The expansion would boost operations at China Lake’s vast land range complex by 25 percent, reports  U.S. Naval Institute News.

China Lake, 150 miles north of Los Angeles, is the Navy’s largest single landholding. Its vast weapons ranges and laboratories support a significant amount of military weapons research, development, testing and operations, according to USNI News.

However, it’s also in a seismically active region. The major earthquakes that struck on July 5 caused more than $4 billion in damages to facilities and infrastructure that affect some operations and will take years to restore.

Gremlins DARPA concept art

DARPA Gremlins program concept art. (Courtesy DARPA)

Among the operations affected was an initial demonstration flight for an air-launch-and-recovered swarming drone concept that had been planned for September. Dynetics, Inc., a science and technology firm based in Alabama, expected its initial flight test of the Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) to occur last month. The test of the small, reusable unmanned vehicles operating with a C-130 transport aircraft is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins program under a $38.6 million contract for the demonstration phase, USNI NEWS reported.

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Europeans to study self learning drone swarms.

A European consortium is pitching the idea of training intelligent drone swarms to confuse, disable and destroy an enemy’s air defenses.

The proposal is part of the Prepartory Action on Defence Research effort by the European Union to improve collaboration on drones among member states. Participating countries are Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, the Netherlands and Austria.

The idea behind “SEAD Swarm” — which stands for “suppresion of enemy air defenses” — is to create necessary algorithms that would enable a mass of aerial drones to inspect the characteristics of air defense systems, distribute the information within the swarm and derive a plan of attack against weak points, according to Defense News. Actions taken could include blinding radar sensors, overwhelming anti-aircraft fire with kamikaze-type tactics, or attacking sites with explosive or electronic-warfare payloads.

If adopted by the EU, Defense News said, participating countries of would detail military officials to an advisory board to help ensure the planned simulations reflect real-world combat situations.

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Pentagon: Chinese drones for target practice only

The Pentagon says Chinese-manufactured drones it purchased months after their use was prohibited because of cybersecurity concerns are being used only as “targets” and are not being deployed with elite U.S. forces on missions.

Last month an investigation by the VOA website revealed the U.S. Air Force and the Navy had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on drones made by market-leader Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) for some of the military’s most sensitive and secretive operators — including the Air Force’s only special tactics wing and Navy SEAL teams.

In each case, the Pentagon said, the services used special exemptions granted by the the Defense Department’s acquisition and sustainment office “on a case by case basis, to support urgent needs.”

Many in Congress the Pentagon’s continued use of Chinese-manufactured drones as a possible security leak risk. Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee also included a provision in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act banning the use of Chinese-made drones.

Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters October 18 that her office wrote the waivers in order to use the drones “on ranges in highly controlled conditions,” to test the U.S. military’s counterdrone capabilities.

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Border Patrol Drone Contract to AeroVironment

The U.S. Border Patrol has awarded a $5.25 million firm fixed-price contract award for AeroVironment Puma 3  unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and support equipment.

Delivery is anticipated by January, 2020 for the man-portable, fixed wing UAS, which is designed for land and maritime operations.

PUMA Border Patrol

The U.S. Border Patrol, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, will use the man-launched Puma 3 AE small unmanned aircraft system to extend its reach to remote border areas. (Photo courtesy AeroVironment)

Easy to transport, deploy and operate, the Puma system can be launched from anywhere, at any time, and requires no additional infrastructure, such as runways or launch devices.  The AeroVironment Puma flies for hours in the most extreme environments while producing high-resolution, continuous or on-demand spot surveillance of critical land and sea border areas at any time of the day or night.

Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Air and Missile Defense, Aircraft, Counter Terrorism, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Skills and Training, Special Operations, Technology, U.S. Navy, Unconventional Warfare, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (October 18, 2019) FRIDAY FOTO (October 25, 2019)

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